Festive greetings to you my Shaman-Metal-Worshiping brothers, sisters, and solo-offspring alike. What we have here is a gift. A truly independent release. No backing, no playlist hawkers, just the Bandcamp platform upon which to sit their gargantuan riffs and strangely hypnotic tunes. At the moment the album is only available digitally, however, there is a Kickstarter campaign which aims to release the tunes on vinyl. So, if Sheev interests you in the same way they’ve captivated me, then I implore you to get involved as soon as possible so that we can all revel in handling a heavy twelve-incher (ahem!).
On their Bandcamp page, Sheev describe themselves as follows… ‘Sheev is a progressive stoner metal band from Berlin, Germany. The trio blend massive grooves and captivating vocals into progressively arranged heavy music.’
This description is for once totally accurate and also massively underselling what Sheev have managed to do on their debut album, Mind Conductor. This review has been delayed by almost a month – not because of the usual ‘my washing machine exploded and killed my dog’ type of excuses – the delay is simply down to me listening to the fucking thing so much!
The thing that first grabbed my attention was the cover artwork. I can’t point to exactly what it is that fascinated me, but somewhere in the combination of Pallbearer t-shirt art, early Jethro Tull-like imagery, and echoes of Master of Puppets, lies an album cover that is cooler than anything else I’ve seen for a couple of years.
With the desperate hope that the music within matched up to the artwork, imagine my joy when the first proper track manages to remind me of the mighty Taint in their prime, whilst also bringing to mind Soundgarden, and Melvins. For some reason, it also quickly occurred to me that this is what I’ve always kinda wished Mastodon sounded like…but for some reason at no point in their career has their style clicked with me, unlike Sheev – with Sheev I’ve been on board from the opening bars.
Sheev are a traditional three-piece band, but with dollops of overdubs and some really good recording, the album sounds absolutely massive. I really hope that the Taint comparison follows through into the live setting because they pulled it off live – the overdubs were replaced by energy and sheer volume. If these Berliners manage to make it to a stage anywhere near me in the coming years, I’m confident they’ll do the same.
After a really cool intro, Well Whined starts us off with what is a five-and-a-half-minute epic. There are as many riffs in this opening track as there are on the last two Electric Wizard albums combined. One of the riffs is reminiscent of something you’d hear played on a sitar, but somehow, rather than jarring with the heaviness going on around it, it adds an otherworldly texture to the piece.
We then move on to Saltshifter which opens with a clean bluesy riff with a real Soundgarden feel. This same bluesy riff then drives the track forward with a ton-load of fuzztone added to it. It’s worth saying early this album sounds great, and the mix is spot-on. This particular track throws the main riff from left to right across the stereo image. It’s such a simple trick, but it works brilliantly and gives the music an extra dimension.
Mind Conductor is an album of huge variety, but it plays that very clever trick of still sounding like it’s all part of one clear narrative…
By the end of track three, you’re safe in the assumption that the rest of the album will happily trundle along at standard stoner/sludge speed… then Horsemouth (which also appeared as the title track on their 2019 debut EP) comes screaming out at you at 100mph, only to then slam the breaks on and carry on with a shuffling rhythm and some very Mark Lanegan-esque vocals! About halfway through, the track does another pivot and brings in one of the most melodic and head-nod-inducing riffs of the whole album… oh, and then there’s the guitar solo. Somehow all of these twists and turns manage to produce a cohesive whole – it’s one of the stand-out tracks on the album.
It isn’t too often in a genre dominated by who can get a guitar to sound heavier than the earth that arguably the key element on a really successful album is the vocals, but this is definitely one of those rare albums. The phrasing is really interesting and there are a number of subtly different styles used. Adding effects to vocals is something that can go disastrously wrong, but here Sheev even use low-level ring modulator effects to add extra layers.
All I Can follows and is a borderline ballad – I’m not talking Bryan Adams or Meatloaf territory here – the first couple of minutes, in particular, would very happily sit on a Screaming Trees album. The guitar work here is also fantastic. The solo basically takes over from the vocal line and tells just as much of a story. Great stuff.
Muji Uta Ja changes the feeling of things again… suddenly we’re in Primus territory. Would I be as interested in Mind Conductor if it was all similar to this track? Well, no…but as the album is sequenced, this track serves as a brief respite before the heaviness that lurks in the final stretch.
I’m going to stop short of describing the next two tracks in any detail, cos quite frankly I’m disturbing my own listening time. However, Baby Huey makes me joyful for two reasons; firstly, ‘Baby Huey’in my world is an obscure and sadly deceased soul singer who had the greatest afro I’ve ever seen, and secondly, the track could quite easily sit on either Soundgarden’s Louder Than Love or Badmotorfinger albums. So, what’s not to like there?
At about four minutes into the final track Snakegosh, the band break out into a riff which pretty much sums the album up for me. It’s even got a bit of dual-guitar Lizzy harmony which is the cherry on the top of the cake. It’s a closing track that brings things to an end really effectively – that is until I inevitably press ‘play’ again.
Mind Conductor is an album of huge variety, but it plays that very clever trick of still sounding like it’s all part of one clear narrative. There are enough obvious influences and references to shake a stick at, however, this album is all Sheev and nothing but Sheev! At a time when we’re all thinking about our top tens, and year-end best-of lists, Sheev have come along and basically stopped me from listening to much else for the last six weeks. I must admit to occasionally suffering from a short attention span where new music is concerned, simply because there’s so bloody much of it. Sheev’s Mind Control has demanded my undivided attention though – so maybe there’s more to the album’s title than I first thought.
Scribed by: David J McLaren